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Chelsea Craig Seizes Opportunity to Earn Master’s Degree Before Starting Career

ULM MEd CI Student Chelsea Craig

Chelsea Craig struck while the iron was hot after graduating from the University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM) with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish in 2018.

“I wasn’t sure I wanted to teach, but I was working in the language lab on campus, tutoring students, the last semester of my senior year,” she said. “The English as a Second Language master’s degree program was new at the time.

“I loved ULM, so I applied for it to have an opportunity to learn more about languages and how they work. It wasn’t part of the plan, but I thought I would go straight into it from my undergrad. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have gone back.”

Craig graduated from the online Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction program at ULM in May 2020. She is in her first year of teaching Spanish and ESL at South Plaquemines High School in Buras, Louisiana.

“I was the director of the language lab and was also tutoring,” she said. “There were people coming in who didn’t get what they were learning. When I sat down with them, I could see that lightbulb go off in their head when they got it.

“Something about knowing that I had something to do with them understanding it made me realize I wanted to be a teacher. Once I knew that I could make a difference, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”

Although Craig enrolled in the fully online program, she completed a graduate assistantship with the School of Education.

“Earning the degree online was manageable,” she said. “I was still going to campus every day but not sitting in classes. That kind of felt normal to me.”

Viva Education

Craig grew up in Haughton, Louisiana, and did not declare a major at ULM until the second half of her freshman year.

“I graduated from high school knowing that the only thing that made me happy was learning Spanish,” she said. “The second semester of my undergrad, I took Spanish I, which I had learned in high school.

“I performed pretty well in the course. The professor told me I should major in Spanish. I said, ‘Oh my gosh, you can do that?’ I literally went to the dean’s office at that moment and changed my major to secondary education.”

Before enrolling in the master’s degree program, Craig had never taken any online courses. However, it didn’t take her long to get the hang of learning in a new way.

“I adjusted quickly — especially because I was working in the School of Education,” she said. “I had a lot of support and a lot of help along the way.”

Dr. Amy Weems, the professor whom Craig served as a graduate assistant, taught her favorite courses in the online M.Ed. curriculum.

“Dr. Weems was very helpful,” she said. “I liked her style of teaching. The program prepared me well for the classroom.”

Craig considers assistant professor Dr. Yiting Chu a huge supporter of her journey as a graduate student.

“My ESL courses were taught by Dr. Chu whom I also worked with as his graduate assistant. He really pushed me to become a better writer and graduate student,” she said. “If I hadn’t had any background in ESL, I would have struggled to teach my ESL students. It gave me some background and some help.”

Muy Bueno

Although Craig is in the early stages of her career, she believes that her decision to stay in school will continue to pay off. She is currently working toward a certification in Spanish.

“The master’s degree definitely helped me land my current teaching job,” she said. “It will also help open up opportunities for me in the future.

“My family and friends are excited for me to complete the master’s degree. I am the first person in my household to earn a college degree.”

Craig, who enjoys painting in her free time, said she would have liked to have had some teaching experience before enrolling in the online M.Ed. C&I in ESL program.

“You need to have a background in education, learning and languages,” she said. “One of the biggest things I struggled with in the program was that a lot of people were already teachers in a classroom. I wasn’t.

“It wasn’t a bad thing, but it’s helpful to have connections with teachers to succeed. I didn’t have a class to utilize for school projects.”

Still, Craig hit the ground running in her first year as a teacher because of the experience and education she took away from her time at ULM.

“It was a huge transition to go to the online program,” she said. “I was worried I wasn’t going to learn as much. I felt like I would be teaching myself, but it turned out really nice.”

Learn more about ULM’s online M.Ed. C&I program.

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